She Ditched Law School And Built A Multimillion Dollar SaaS Business
Jasmine Star dropped out of UCLA to become a photographer without even owning a camera! Now she makes millions teaching people to tell visual stories online
My favorite fact about Hampton member Jasmine Star is that on the day that she dropped out of law school to become a photographer, she didn't even own a camera.
That didn't stop her.
Fast forward a few years, and not only was she an award-winning international photographer making hundreds of thousands a year from her work, but she had also started on the path toward something else she never thought she'd be – the founder of a successful software company.
Today, her business, Social Curator, uses a combination of SaaS and content to teach thousands of students around the world how to tell their stories online. Fully bootstrapped from day one, they generate millions in revenue, and at one point even sold $500k+ in memberships inside 48 minutes.
She's an incredible operator, and a wonderful storyteller. Here is her story...
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I used to be embarrassed of my name. I’d cringe when my mother called out for me in public. “Jasmine Star,” she’d whisper over her shoulder on our way out of the library, “please go get your twin sister, Bianca Flower.”
Yes, those were our names. She was a hippie, and I was but just one flower in her garden of children.
Years later, I love my name. When I stand on a stage, shake someone’s hand, or introduce myself, I smile and say, “My name is Jasmine Star, speaker, podcaster, and CEO of Social Curator.”
Social Curator helps entrepreneurs overcome the stress of marketing their business by using our customized resources, education, and social media scheduling app so they get more followers who turn into customers.
Social Curator proudly serves 6,000+ users and I joined Hampton to learn how to scale the business. The monthly subscription is $59/month and our plan is to grow to 10,000+ users in the next 12 months. As a bootstrapped founder, I’m excited to learn and grow.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m a first generation Latina, daughter of an immigrant. My father is from Mexico and my mother is from Puerto Rico, and they fell in love on the streets of East Los Angeles. They got married in a church basement and had a potluck reception, later raising five children. I was homeschooled until high school, earned an academic scholarship to Whittier College, and later a scholarship to UCLA Law School.
My mom had a relapse with brain cancer during my first year of law school (she was first diagnosed when I was 19 years old), which is when I was diagnosed with depression.
I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and hated law school, but I didn’t have the courage to leave until I visited my mom in the hospital ICU, after brain surgery.
She didn’t talk about what she had done with her life. As we gathered around her and wondered if she would make it through, my mother talked about all the things she hadn’t done. Write a children’s book. Visit Austria. Travel first class.
At that moment, I knew I’d drop out of law school because I didn’t want to arrive at the end of life and wonder, What if…
I quit the next day.
I moved home to be with my mom and in a crazy turn of events, my high school sweetheart proposed and we planned a wedding in three months. Against all odds, my father and mother walked me down the aisle.
When we returned from our honeymoon, my husband asked if I was planning to return to law school. I was ashamed saying no, but I knew I had to at least try pursuing my passion of being a photographer.
“But you don’t even own a camera,” my confused husband replied. I explained that if I got one, I think I could make it a business. He looked across the table and said, “I’d rather see you fail at something you love than succeed at something you hate.”
Three months later–as a Christmas gift–my husband, JD, bought me a camera from Best Buy and I started my photography business in 2007. And I convinced him to be my co-founder.
In my first year of business, I earned six-figures. Within three years, I got awards for my work and traveled the world with my camera. My career took off and I began creating content, teaching, and consulting, creating multiple 7-figure revenue streams along the way. Here’s a peek at my career iteration…
At each turn, I was uneducated, unfunded, unqualified, and unprepared to start a new business, but I did.
With every iteration, I learned something new to carry into my next offer. This worked really well until I wanted to create a SaaS business as a non-technical founder. I didn’t know coding, UX/UI, or even the slightest thing about being a tech startup founder. Regardless, I got back up after every gut-wrenching knock down.
I assembled a tech team and bootstrapped Social Curator, launching with our very own tech stack in 2020.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
I felt like a tornado swept me up and dropped me in the middle of a different country. In a different universe. I sat in dev meetings and didn’t understand what was being said, but I forced myself to ask questions. Dumb questions, basic questions, questions about my questions.
I drew design ideas on pieces of paper, scrutinized the roadmap, and tried writing assumption docs. I was CEO, but also Head of Product. The responsibilities intimidated me and I was so nervous for all-hand tech meetings that my stomach churned with acid waves. We had a tiny and scrappy team, but I was determined to learn as fast as I could.
There’s still SO much to learn–and I’m still asking dumb questions–but I’ve found a cadence that makes me feel confident pushing the team forward.
One of the trickiest things about building a SaaS product for social media was the ever-changing nature of API access for Meta platforms, among others like LinkedIn and TikTok. We’ve learned to iterate quickly and get ancillary educational resources for users ready as soon as possible.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I didn’t know Social Curator was going to be a SaaS subscription. In fact, it originally started as a monthly membership for social media resources, trainings, courses, and a vibrant community. In June 2017, Social Curator launched as a membership (built on a Frankenstein-ed Wordpress site and Infusionsoft -- looking back at this decision all I think is, OH MY GOD WHYYY?).
This was our first website…
We opened doors for a one-week period to gauge interest. At the end of seven days, we had 2,444 members.
JD and I were shocked.
We knew we were onto something amazing, but things quickly got complicated when our tech couldn’t scale with our needs. The site would crash, membership resources weren’t properly distributed on a monthly basis, and the code was a mess. We worked with a dev shop, so we felt handcuffed to their timelines and bandwidth.
(We continued opening enrollment every four months and welcomed an average of 1,500 new members at a time…but our tech hampered long-term user experience and amplified our churn.)
In 2019, I broadcasted a live video into the Social Curator community to explain yet another site crash, and members stated how disappointed they were. They were right. They should have been disappointed! I apologized profusely and (in full disclosure), I cried. It was all so humiliating.
That was when we knew things had to change. We couldn’t be dependent on a dev shop anymore, we needed our own product and dev team, particularly because we knew we needed to change from a membership to a SaaS company (which would allow us to integrate with social platforms).
We hired our first CTO in March 2020 and by October 2020, our first tech stack debuted to the team. We shifted our Social Curator messaging from being a membership to a SaaS subscription, integrated with social platforms so users could plan/schedule their marketing posts, and no longer had enrollment periods. We launched the new Social Curator subscription in February 2021.
From 2017-2020, I thought of myself as a business owner, but since 2021 I considered myself a founder.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Want to know the best kept secret to growing a SaaS company? Content. Content. Content.
I believe this so much that content hasn’t just become a source of lead generation and social credibility, but a key differentiating factor between Social Curator and its competitors.
We aren’t just a social media scheduling app, Social Curator is a digital marketing agency in your pocket. Business owners aren’t just overwhelmed and stressed with social marketing, most don’t even know where to begin.
Our belief is that if we wanted users to take action, then we needed to make it as easy as possible. We don’t just provide the tools (the what), we provide the education (the how), and–most importantly–we provide the community (the why, a way for business owners to discuss what’s working and stay on top of changing algorithms and engaging trends).
For example, if a user wanted to quickly learn how to create an Instagram reel, they would search our database of marketing Action Plans to find tutorials.
They would quickly learn how to create their desired Reel by way of tutorials.
They also have the opportunity to create accountability with a simple daily challenge…
Using the Social Curator Post Editor, a user can then create a post for Instagram and schedule it for a desired time and date.
Social Curator also shares tons of free educational content on our blog and social platforms, like Instagram, for example…
Another reason we’re huge proponents of organic content is how effective it is at keeping traffic warm, then retargeting with paid ads. During promotional periods, it’s common for Social Curator to get 25,000 leads (for a CPL less than $4/lead) during a three week period, and this is largely in part to the consistency of our content, engaging with followers, and building trust over time.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At the time of writing this article, we’ve just debuted our UPGRADED Social Curator platform…and I couldn't be more hopeful and excited!!!!! (Yes, all those exclamation points are necessary.)
We spent the last two years drilling down on the product and identifying the value proposition for users. We stripped down the product and began testing in October 2022. To be honest, it was painful.
We stopped all promotional efforts, we stopped all lead generation, and we stopped inviting people to our free trial. I had to face reality that while we’d grown, we plateaued from 2021 to 2022 because we hadn’t, truly, found product market fit. We wouldn’t scale until I redefined the vision and we built scrappy until we tested so many hypotheses that we felt confident pressing on the gas pedal again.
We downsized our team in October 2022 (which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a founder), to elongate our runway (we’ve been entirely bootstrapped and profitable from day one…I didn’t want to compound our stress with unsustainable overhead, so I had to make the hard call…as painful as it was, it was the right call.)
As CEO it’s terrifying to push the breaks, but my mentor told me we needed to slow down before we sped up.
In May 2023, we introduced the platform to users and the feedback was promising.
We rebuilt our tech stack, buttressed our architecture for scale, and focused on heavily incorporating AI.
We will publicly debut the upgraded platform in June 2023, and our plans are to get 30,000 leads for an educational webinar, which will incorporate the Social Curator platform for their social media marketing needs.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We couldn’t survive without:
- Asana (this project management tool is priceless to ensure our content and marketing teams stay on track)
- Active Campaign (email marketing)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I actually joined Hampton after listening to My First Million podcast for over a year. What Sam and Shaan have created is nothing short of amazing.
(Humble brag: I interviewed Sam on my podcast, the Jasmine Star show, and he may or may not have said the interview was so good he PR’d his deadlift, saved a kitten from a tree, and grew more chest hair. Yeah, that good.)
After reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendrix, I changed my thinking entirely…I was actually excited to get uncomfortable.
Do The Work by Steven Pressfield will always be a long-standing recommendation…I love small steps to consistency and this book inspires me.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Here’s my advice, in no particular order:
- Don’t get fancy. You don’t need funding, extensive websites, or visual branding to start. You need customers. Focus on that.
- Be consistent. Small daily actions are the only reps you need. It’s tempting to think you need to long-jump from success to success, but it’s the tiny consistencies that compound over time.
- Document your journey. It’s easy to focus on what’s next or the next big growth spurt, but looking back at how far you’ve come is a sobering reminder of what you’re capable of.
- Ask for help. I waited too long to ask for help (to be honest, I was scared and embarrassed to ask…I worried if someone discovered just how incapable I was, they’d call me out for the fraud I felt like). As soon as I developed the courage to ask, the business changed entirely.
- Call your mom. My mom had a miraculous recovery from brain cancer (she’s been in remission since 2006!), so during my darkest moments, I call her to remember that night in ICU after her brain surgery. She–like always–will point me in the right direction so we never have to wonder, What if…
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
YES. We’re back in growth mode. Find out more: www.socialcurator.com/careers
(Even if you don’t see a job listing, please drop us a line with your resume. We have major initiatives rolling out soon, and will be on the hunt for A-players.)
Where can we go to learn more?
As a mega advocate for building a personal brand in tandem with the building a business, (you can find me in the # talk-personal-brand channel in Hampton Slack!), I’ll link to both…
- Website: JasmineStar.com
- Podcast: Jasmine Star Show
- Instagram: @jasminestar
- Facebook: @jasminestar
- Twitter: @jasminestar
- YouTube: @officialjasminestar
- Tiktok: @officialjasminestar
- LinkedIn: @jasmine-star
- Newsletter: JasmineStar.com/subscribe
Personally, I find being the CEO of a startup to be downright exhilarating. But, as I'm sure you well know, it can also be a bit lonely and stressful at times, too.
Because, let's be honest, if you're the kind of person with the guts to actually launch and run a startup, then you can bet everyone will always be asking you a thousand questions, expecting you to have all the right answers -- all the time.
And that's okay! Navigating this kind of pressure is the job.
But what about all the difficult questions that you have as you reach each new level of growth and success? For tax questions, you have an accountant. For legal, your attorney. And for tech. your dev team.
This is where Hampton comes in.
Hampton's a private and highly vetted network for high-growth founders and CEOs.